Friday, November 18, 2016

Cost of Innovation

There's a great article on HBO over at about how the network's drive to provide innovative programming means taking programming gambles that do not always perform.

Innovation means doing something new, which requires taking risks.  Companies may say they are committed to innovation, but true commitment requires allowing themselves a safe space in which they can try new technologies and methods and fail. Employees should be allowed to experiment in this safe space without the fear of being fired simply because a worthwhile pilot did not perform as hoped.

If companies reward employees based solely on results and not compensate for failures due to experimentation, then innovation will suffer.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Failure of Technology as an Equalizer

Much has been said about the UK's Brexit decision, so I just want to focus on one aspect of this historically monumental event: the failure of technology to fight income inequality.

One of the fault lines that the Brexit decision exposed was the disparity between the haves and the have-nots. It struck me that while the UK may be a technologically advanced nation, disparate impact of tech in wealth creation was reflected in the vote.

We know that technology can create vast amounts of wealth, for the entrepreneurs who succeed in building businesses that transform our lives and the investors who placed their faith in them. But technology is less effective at helping its users create wealth. Yes, people can now sell arts and crafts on line and indie musicians can sell their recordings digitally but that is not creating wealth. People can even easily organize protests. In fact, technology costs have only increased, data plans and phones become more expensive as people pay more of their shrinking paychecks to keep up with all the updates and the latest gadgets.

The Guardian published this piece "Martin’s already lost almost everything – he voted leave to spread the pain" that highlights this problem. Those of us working in the technology field should think about how technology can improve Martin's life: cheaper/free connectivity, easier access to tools and resources, improve skills, access new jobs and opportunities.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Privacy Is the New Currency

We trade our privacy in exchange for certain goods and services. We willingly give up our privacy to use WiFi, and social networks like Facebook and Snapchat. So how soon before we can trade our privacy for:

  • Food?
  • Mortgage payments? 
  • College degree? (How long before a tech company comes up with an idea to help you pay your student loan in exchange for a life time of your web surfing data?)
  • Car payments?
It's a matter of time before we see consumers negotiating with ad tech to get more for their privacy. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

No one reads emails anymore

Spent some time this week with college students to understand how they communicate with each other and the rest of the world. Learned some interesting facts.

1. Most of them do not read nor do they send emails.

2. They don't feel any sense of urgency in responding to emails, whereas they do with instant messages.

3. They prefer to message each other for work and social purposes.

4. There does not seem to be any one dominant messaging app. Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Kik were the most prevalent.

5. They were receptive to receiving digital offers but they wanted them in the form of a message and not an email.

When I asked my niece a while back to send me an email for some information I requested, she looked at me like I had two heads. Her primary method of communication was Line. Indeed, all of my relatives in Asia used Line.

I don't think this is a fad but rather is the visible start of a trend. People now prefer to receive information in smaller pieces, so email may someday go the way of the fax. This TechCrunch article confirms this trend.

Messaging as we know it will also evolve and incorporate ever more functionalities inside the app, just as Line and Facebook Messenger have shown.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

There's no such thing as free WiFi

Gizmodo recently wrote about NYC's free WiFi service being a privacy nightmare, citing to various provisions of its terms of conditions. I have not used the service so I have not had the chance to review the terms but what the post describes sounds fairly standard for free WiFi services.

Businesses provide free WiFi because they believe it makes good business sense. Stores may provide it because it helps them learn what sites you visit and what you do online so they can sell to you more effectively.

Expecting privacy from using free WiFi is like borrowing someone's phone and expecting them not to know what number you called, when you called and what you said.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Tech Prediction #5 for 2016: America remains far behind in connectivity

This isn't a prediction as it is a complaint. That Americans are much too complacent with the quality and availability of their connectivity. I am reminded of what is possible when I travel overseas. Whenever I do travel overseas, I rent a MiFi from Xcom Global which will give me unlimited data as I move between meetings and locations. This set up works quite nicely as I have access to emails and can download maps as necessary. I even have my SMS messages routed through Google Voice so I can respond to texts immediately using my data connection. Most importantly I forward my calls to my VOIP service so I can talk using my unlimited data plan from my MiFi. I don't pay a penny in roaming costs and function as if I'm still in the US. 

On a recent trip to Taiwan I spoke with a colleague by phone and he remarked that I sounded clearer than when I do when I'm working in my office using a landline. So I did a quick check of my connection speed. 

Fairly impressive. I won't name the carrier but a MiFi I had in NY never gave me speeds like this. Even more impressive when I tell you that I conducted the test in the countryside before boarding the high speed train

I ran the test in Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest city, and found even faster speeds. 

I don't think I had speeds like that when I had Time Warner Cable in NYC. 

Aside from the impressive speeds, the strength of the connection was even more remarkable. I was talking on the phone in one of the local skyscrapers, Kaohsiung 85, got into an elevator, went down into the parking lot (5th basement floor), got into a car, drove out on to the street and never lost my connection. And I maintained a better sound quality than on my landline in upstate NY.